Sometimes Necessity actually is the Mother of Invention.

I know it certainly was the mother of my invention.

For 20 years as an Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), I lugged a therapy bag around from home to home, school to school and clinic to clinic.

That trusty bag o' mine would be stuffed to the gills with a variety of tools and toys.

Because every kid's needs are different; every session required different go-to resources; games, flash cards, felt boards, tactile toys, memory games, card games, bubbles, and sticker charts.

You name it.

If it was something that could help one of the kids on that day's docket, it was in the bag.

Among my go-to bag-stuffing toys and tools, some classics: Play Doh, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Battleship, Mr. Potato Head, Old Maid, and Bingo.

As a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), I always try to hook my kids with fun toys and then incorporate language goals as they play.



Whatever I either didn't need for that day's kids, or wouldn't fit into my ever- expanding bag, I would scatter haphazardly across the front seat, back seat, under the seats, and in the trunk of my car.

I probably had something crammed into my glove box too.

My car looked like I was living it in.

Or something straight out of a hoarder reality show.

(Note to self: Tell my TV Producer/husband to pitch SLP HOARDERS to the TLC network! I know we'd have a built-in audience of therapists!)

Each one of you knows how ridiculous this can get. Too many tools, toys and resources and nowhere to put them.


Of course, it's not just about clutter.

Lugging heavy bags for years on end can take a physical toll.

At the California Speech and Hearing (CSHA) conference in Sacramento a couple of years ago, I wound up having a group conversation about frozen shoulders, twisted elbows and altered gaits with fellow SLPs who dropped by our SmartFelt Toys booth.

It was like the scene in Jaws where Quint and Hooper compare scars.

We stood there, a group of five or six SLPs,  communally listing our ailments, war wounds and attempts at rehabilitation. (I'm never trying acupuncture again. I don't see the point. #punintended)

It wasn't really a competition as much as a commiseration. ("OMG, you have that too?")

Who the hell says being an SLP isn't a physical job?

So right around the time an orthopedist diagnosed me with my case of frozen shoulder - from years of SLP-related bag slinging - I had my Aha! moment. I thought to myself:

"I need to create a tool that will be engaging for my kids, combine several of my most effective toys into one, combine a matching activity, expressive open ended language play, cover all the early language concepts I can think of AND has to be really portable."

So I set out to come up with something that would be multi-use, multi-functional and become so small it would easily slide into my bag.

And that was the origin of My Little House, our OG product now sharing the limelight with My Little Farm, our new toy on the block.

They are both, as my husband says, "felt boards on steroids."

Both My Little House and My Little Farm start small.

Then kids can use their fine motor skills to make magic.

By unfolding the felt flaps and using velcro seams, kiddos can turn MLF and MLH into a large reversible 3-dimensional play structure.


That's where they can engage in matching, learning concepts, receptive and expressive language, sequencing, instruction-following, and open ended story telling.

When the session is over...therapists can fold My Little House or My Little Farm up into a tiny felt rectangle and slip it either back in the bag or onto a shelf where it will take up very little space.


One of the biggest compliments I get from SLPs, Occupational Therapists (OTs), clinicians, teachers and parents is about just how portable my toys are.

Which brings me immense joy. And satisfaction. Because that's exactly what I set out to do. Mission Accomplished!

So fellow therapists, my advice to you (and take it from a veteran SLP with a frozen shoulder) is when it comes to stuffing the therapy bag, give yourself a break and GO SMALL!

(If you're interested in going small with SmartFelt Toys...enter SLP for a 25% Discount.)

And remember:



Yvonne Johansen